One of the big stories for the New York Mets in spring training involves the health of their ace, Johan Santana. Santana started off 2012 with a return to form that was capped by the franchise's first ever no hitter. That game on June 1st was the pinnacle of Santana's season, and he threw 134 pitches to complete the gem. Santana was never the same after that game, eventually landing on the disabled list with multiple ailments and having his season cut short after an ineffective return coupled with a new ankle injury. Santana took the mound at the Mets' spring training facility in Port St. Lucie for the first time and looked very sharp, ESPN New York's Adam Rubin reports.
Santana, 33, threw 20 pitches to bullpen catcher Dave Racaniello and declared himself to be ready to begin his season's preparations. Santana is currently penciled in to start the team's Opening Day game at Citi Field on April 1st against the San Diego Padres. The Mets expect Santana to make his spring debut on March 2nd against the Miami Marlins according to manager Terry Collins. Santana's health is key to a club that will need to rely on its pitching staff to stay in games.
Santana told reporters, "Today was a beginning for me . . . You always worry about how you feel and everything, but at the same time I was just trying to get my job done and not try to overdo things out there." Santana, who missed the entire 2011 season as well as the end of the 2012 campaign, is looking to put up a big year as he enters the final year of his six year, 137.5 million dollar contract. While Santana originally pushed to be eligible for the World Baseball Classic, it now appears that Santana will likely spend the remainder of his spring with the Mets in order to get ready for the season. As a veteran on a team loaded with youngsters, Santana's presence in camp can also be a valuable learning tool for the litany of young pitchers that are experiencing big league spring training for the first time, including top prospect Zack Wheeler.
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